• Family Tents Pro

Is A Rooftop Tent Worth It?

No matter if you're an avid camper or just starting out, you need to provide yourself and your family shelter. There are many styles and types of tents that will keep you dry and warm while out on that camping trip. Maybe you're going for a family weekend or a hunting trip with friends. What is the best option to provide you safety and shelter? A rooftop tent may be the perfect solution to these items.

Is the Rooftop Tent Worth the extra price? Rooftop tents will cost more than traditional dome or cabin tents, significantly more. However, if you desire to camp off the ground, away from insects and small animals, these rooftop tents would be a great choice. Additionally, these rooftop tents are set up in minutes with no consideration of the ground you will be camping on. You stay up and out of the wet, rocky and uneven ground. A final consideration is you can put your tent up where ever you please, a parking lot, a rest stop, or a camping site. All of these uses might make this the perfect choice for you on your camping trip.

Rooftop tents are relatively new to the USA and originally were and are popular in the "Land Down Under," Australia. It is a concern there to camp off the ground to keep safe from small ground predators and insects. Not to mention, Australia is vast, and you can see where a rooftop tent would be beneficial with its speedy setup time, under two minutes in most cases.

Now, seeing these tents strapped to the top of a Land Cruiser or Jeep indeed turned heads here in the US. Yes, it is impressive to see that hard clamshell affixed to the top of the off-roader, but how functional are they? Is this style of tent from me?

Let's take a closer look at the advantages of owning a Rooftop Tent for your Car or SUV. This information should help you decide whether this newer tent style is a good fit for you and your tenting needs.

Convenience and Quick Setup Time

What would be the best reason to buy a rooftop tent? Convenience is at the top of the list. First, your tent is always connected to the roof of your vehicle, so setup is a breeze.

Clamshell Rooftop Tents set up by opening them up, under one minute. While Soft Rooftop Tents popup like a tent. These take under two minutes. Either option provides you the fastest setup of almost any tent or style of tent on the market today.

Not to mention, once your tent is set up, all your belongings are within reach, especially with clamshell units, as you can leave or pack your personal item inside the Rooftop Tent and leave them there while you travel.

One of the best convenience items is that you can quickly pack this tent and move to the next site. If you have a hardtop version, you can leave all of your goodies inside for the trip. Even a soft-top rooftop tent will allow you to leave most of your gear when you fold it down. This area is where you gain lots of conveniences. Pack and Go.

Saved Packing Space in Your Car or SUV

By leaving your personal items inside the rooftop tent, you free up valuable space inside your vehicle. You know, trying to fit all of your camping gear for you and your family in the back of the SUV can sometimes be a challenge. Every inch counts, and here you gain some valuable space to pack gear that you would not otherwise have.

Also, you gain the space that your family tent would have taken in the back of the car. Additionally, there is no need to worry about your sleeping mattress and blankets as they are inside your packed Rooftop Tent. Think of all the extra space that will make packing for the trip that much easier.


If you fear small animals or snakes and the like, the rooftop tent is a great choice. You are elevated off the ground and are sleeping on the roof of your car or SUV. This height keeps you out of the way for most small predators.

For security, you can even hoist your ladder up if that's your choice. This measure assures you'll have no unwanted visitors in the middle of the night.


While both versions of the rooftop tents are durable by design, the Clamshell design (a hardtop version) will offer you the best protection from hard, heavy rains as well as stronger winds. This hard roof will keep you dry and secure in the worst weather mother nature can throw at you.

Views in the Morning and Night

Another advantage is that sleeping on the top of your car will give you new and beautiful views from your tent. You're not on the ground looking at the back of the vehicle. You can see the skyline and nature all around you.


The available space inside these rooftop tents is better than you might think. Many of these tents are rated for two adults and two children. Keep in mind, this will be tight, especially in warmer weather. It also depends on your type of camping getaway.

If you're looking for that quick weekend where you don't want to spend your time setting up, then you will have more than enough space to stay comfortable.

Some Rooftop Tents offer Amenities

Yes, you can get extras. I've seen some clamshell units come with charging ports and ready to accept solar panels. You can also find Rooftop tents that offer a bonus or add-on rooms for extra sleeping space or changing areas. It would help if you kept an eye open for these extras as they are now popping up more often and with a broader assortment.

Mattress is Included

There is no need to pack the mattress for the trip. The Rooftop Tent includes a comfortable foam pad mattress, especially if you're only going out for a few days. I'm not saying that you would want this in your bedroom at home, but these pads will help you to get a great night's sleep and wake to the beauty of nature.

Now to give you a rounded picture, there are some negatives to the Rooftop Tent.

Price versus a traditional Tent

Yes, these rooftop tents are expensive. They will set you back from between $800 to $1500 or even more, depending on your level of bells and whistles. Also, there is the added cost of the support structure under the tent. This structure is not included and is an item that is typically needed to secure your tent safely to the top of your SUV or car.

You need to consider if this style of tent is in your best interest. If you want quick setup options and will be moving around often, this is a good fit. If it is a week or two-week vacation in your location, it may not be the choice, especially if you take the car out often. You will need to pack it up every time before you move.

In this situation, a great family cabin tent or family dome tent might be a better choice, and these will cost you a fraction of the rooftop tent.

Mounting To Your SVU or Car

As I said earlier, most installations will need the rooftop tent company's support bars under your new tent to help distribute the weight. You should also check that the roof of your car or SUV will support the new tent and all of its weight.

It is common to see a soft rooftop tent weighing between 40 and 150 pounds, with clamshell models weighing much more.

This weight also makes it challenging to install these units with just one person. So be prepared to ask a friend or family member to give you a hand getting it onto the roof of your car. Once secured, you're good to go as these tents are designed with covers so that you don't need to remove the tent every other day.

You will undoubtedly need help installing the hardtop or clamshell model rooftop tent, as these weigh considerably more than the soft-top version.

Gas Mileage will Suffer

Yes, your car or SUV's gas mileage will be lower than average. Not only are you adding weight to your vehicle, but the soft rooftop tent is shaped like a brick.

If you have purchased a clamshell or hardtop model, these will offer better mileage than their soft-top models but will still drive your mileage down.

You might also notice a difference in the way your vehicle handles with a box and additional weight on top of your SUV car. You might feel a swaying or vibration at higher speeds, so you will need to be aware and adjust your driving accordingly.

Space is Limited

Realizing that these rooftop tents are designed for 2-4 persons and children will be the most important realization. While you gain benefits in safety and weather resistance, the space is limited. You need to evaluate your need for space based on your camping trip style and the amount of gear you will be bringing along.

Please also be aware that the soft-top rooftop tents will be larger and offer you more space than the hardtop models. So if you need every inch, then you might want to lean to the soft-top version.

Packing-up Is Slower in the Soft-Top Rooftop Tent

Putting your rooftop tent down in warm weather is relatively easy with either the soft or hardtop version. However, if the weather has turned cold, then packing up the soft-top might be a challenge.

Once the canvas on the tent is cold, it is less pliable. You may need additional help in packing and folding it away so that you can get the travel cover back on the unit.

Your Car or SUV must Support a Roof Rack

The roof rack is a must, and your car or SUV must support one. This structure helps support and disperse the weight inside the tent across the roof of your vehicle. Remember that most Rooftop Tents will have a supported weight limit between 300 to 500 pounds.

Storing the Rooftop Tent when not in use

Storing this tent will eat up a good chunk of storage in your garage or storage unit. It's not as simple as a dome or cabin tent as this rooftop tent has a footprint the size of the roof of your car or SUV. Keep this in mind when you purchase the tent, especially since you need a good, safe space to store this piece of expensive camping gear.

Smittybilt Overlander Tent

The Smittybilt Soft-top Rooftop Tent has a 4.7 out of 5 stars rating on the Amazon Platform with 293 ratings.

Price: $935.20

This rooftop tent weighs a respectable 48 pounds, includes a double foam mattress, and sleeps up to three persons.

It offers you up to a 660-pound maximum working load. You will need to confirm that your car or SUV can support this amount using a roof rack.

The aluminum tent frame poles are covered by a 600D heavy-duty waterproof top and rain fly. The side windows are covered with mosquito netting and a telescopic ladder supplies entry into the tent. This easy setup and takedown tent also supplies the interior with LED strips and many more features. The aluminum entry ladder is stable and durable and offers you a weight limit of 265 pounds.

The tent is also supplied with a heavy-duty PVC cover that keeps the tent dry and free from UV rays when not in use and protects the unit while traveling down the road.

For your convenience, Smittybilt offers you a Tent Annex (sold separately #2788) with a removable floor. The bonus room can easily be attached, and it also comes with heavy-duty zippers for privacy and security from insects.

Silverwing SWT90 Hard Shell Roof Tent

The Silverwing Hard Shell Roof Tent has excellent ratings of 4.6 stars on the Amazon Platform. This two-person hard shell tent weighs 150 pounds and provides you with a durable, safe, weatherproof shelter on that perfect camping or hunting trip.

Price: $2,199.99

This Hard Shell Roof Tent comes pre=assembled, so you have nothing to do but install it on the roof of your car or SUV. It provides you a maximum interior height of 39". The overall tent dimension is 86" x51", giving you a volume of 90 cubic feet. Meanwhile, the adjustable 8.5' ladder is easily stored in the hardtop tent when not in use.

This tent also provides you a large entry awning that helps you keep water from getting inside the tent. The windows and door are secured with heavy-duty zippers. Other amenities include two personal storage pockets, two metal hooks, and a comfortable mattress that is 2.3 inches thick and also comes with a cover to keep it clean and dry when not in use.

This hardshell rooftop tent provides you with a one-minute setup and takedown. It offers uncompromised weather resistance from the elements while providing you the security of a rooftop tent.

Now you've seen the advantages and disadvantages of the rooftop car tent. These tents offer you convenience, security, safety, and a high level of protection from the elements. Setup is quick and flawless and can be completed with one person in under two minutes.

So, if your camping style revolves around moving your tent or leaving your vehicle at the campsite, this tent style is a great alternative. It's also a great choice if you are concerned about the safety from small animals and predators.

If you plan to use your car or SUV throughout the day and then return to your campsite, this may not be the best choice as you will need to close the tent every time you move the car or SUV. Also, you need to confirm that your car or SUV's rooftop and rooftop rack will handle the weight from your rooftop tent.

We are Family Tents Pro, and we've taken a closer look at the relatively new and upcoming rooftop style tent for your car or SUV. We've looked at the Pros and Cons so you can make an educated decision if this style of tent is for you.

We have much more information on our site at www.familytentspro.com. Head over and see what other information will help you make the best choices for your camping needs.

Finally, we may earn a small commission should you purchase through any of our affiliate links. This commission helps us to continue to provide this information to you.

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